Daily Israel Report

Hungarian Jews Threaten to Boycott Holocaust Memorial Events

Jewish leaders in Hungary the government is whitewashing the country's role in the deportation of Jews to Nazi camps.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/22/2014, 5:15 AM

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban
Reuters

Jewish leaders in Hungary threatened on Tuesday to boycott official Holocaust memorial events this year, claiming the government was whitewashing the country's role in the deportations of Jews to Nazi camps, AFP reported.

Last year the government announced a series of events in 2014 to mark the 70th anniversary of the deportations which led to the deaths of around 450,000 Hungarian Jews.

Local Jewish organizations have complained, however, that they haven't been properly consulted and that some of the events are misguided.

"There is a limit, which if overstepped by the official memorial events, will force us to withdraw our participation," Andras Heisler, leader of Hungary's largest Jewish group Mazsihisz, was quoted by AFP as having told journalists.

Mazsihisz has called a planned monument in Budapest marking the country's occupation by Nazi Germany in 1944 an effort to whitewash the state's own role in the deportations.

The government says the monument, due to be unveiled in the capital on March 19, is intended to commemorate all the lives lost during Nazi Germany's occupation of Hungary - which lasted from March 19, 1944 to the spring of 1945 - including the Jewish victims.

"We remain optimists," Heisler said, calling for more dialogue with the government, and for the plan to be scrapped.

Since Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government came to power in 2010, it has often been accused of tacitly encouraging a rehabilitation of Hungary's controversial wartime leader Miklos Horthy, seen by many Jews as complicit in the 1944 deportations.

In recent years there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Hungary. These incidents include Hungary's chief rabbi being verbally abused on a Budapest street, anti-Semitic chants at a football match against Israel and pig's trotters being placed on a statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Budapest Jews in World War II.

Much of the anti-Semitism has been perpetrated by the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik party. In November of 2012, one of its members released a statement saying that a list should be compiled of all of the Jewish members of government.

He was followed by another Jobbik member who called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship.

In May, the World Jewish Congress held an assembly in Budapest to send a strong signal about the rise in anti-Semitism in the central European country.

At that time, Orban pledged to fight anti-Semitism, which he said was "unacceptable and intolerable."

Hungary’s deputy prime minister, Tibor Navracsics, said a few months ago that Hungary must acknowledge its role during the Holocaust.

He admitted the Hungarian state had "turned its back against its own citizens, and indeed took part in their elimination."

"We have learned from the past, we know exactly what happened here, every Hungarian is duty bound to face this responsibility: 70 years ago it was Hungarians who killed Hungarians," said Navracsics.